ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has shown willingness to go ahead with Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project with or without India as Afghanistan is ready to raise special force for the project.
This was conveyed by the Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Resources, Musadik Malik during his recent visit to Saudi Arabia.
Well informed sources told Business Recorder that the minister briefed the Saudi side on latest situation on TAPI pipeline project. He noted that Turkmenistan was keen on moving ahead with the project and maintained that Pakistan wanted to implement the project at the earliest and would complete it with or without India’s participation. In case India chose to leave the project Pakistan was willing to buy India’s proposed share of gas, Malik reportedly stated.
On the issue of Afghanistan, Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Resources acknowledged that the security and political situation in the country remained a stumbling block.
However, he argued that if favourable factors were created including raising stakes of the Afghans, the security problem could be addressed. He further contended that transit revenue from the pipeline would make up around 80 to 85 per cent of Afghanistan’s annual budget making it imperative for them to ensure its security.
The Minister claimed that he also informed the Saudi side that the Afghan interim leadership had informally indicated their readiness to raise a dedicated security force to ensure safety of the pipeline. He said that if Saudi capital or some multilateral funding mechanism was brought into the project it could be materialized which would transform the energy and security landscape of the region.
The sources said, the Saudi side appeared to doubt the removal of security-related impediments in Afghanistan but indicated that they would closely follow the developments with regard to TAPI. They also suggested that if all concerns are addressed and economics of the projects are worked out, entities like SDF, PIF and Exim Bank could be brought on board.
During his meeting with the Saudi Ministers of Finance, Energy, Minerals and Industry, the Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Resources, also proposed a new project where natural gas from Turkmenistan could be brought to Gwadar via gas pipeline from Chaman, converted into LNG and exported.
He reasoned that if Saudi Arabia joins this project, it could open up new possibilities. He claimed that Turkmen leadership was also interested in this idea and if the Kingdom could join, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Saudi Arabia can become joint exporters of LNG. He asserted that energy-starved Europe and the West would also welcome the project.
The sources said, the Saudi side did not commit to the idea but agreed to study the economics of the project carefully when it will be shared by Pakistan. The Minister said that further details of the proposed project would be shared with the Saudi side in due course.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023